Shining a spotlight
on five of Cheshire’s best wedding venues
SHINING A LIGHT
As a floral expert, I consider myself lucky to create florals in some of the county’s most impressive country wedding venues, filled with heritage. Here, I shine a spotlight on five of Cheshire’s best.
As a little girl, I was always curious about Dorfold Hall as our family passed the impressive gated tree-lined driveway. Little did I know that one day I would be working alongside the owners and event managers, making wedding dreams come true. The avenue, which was commissioned by William Nestfied, a landscape architect and former soldier, draws your eye to the enchanting Jacobean hall, built in 1616, nestled in the Cheshire countryside. It’s full of heritage, with beautiful details of stunning oak panelling, diamond-paned leaded windows and plasterwork ceilings with intricate, lacy ‘stalactites’. The custodians, Charles and Candice Roundell, are welcoming, and as I watch the estate evolve it continues to blend a contemporary art style fused with historical intrigue, which is what makes this place so special and magical.
Dorfold has so much inspiration to draw from as a floral designer. The beautiful grounds boast a 1000-year-old Sweet Chestnut tree, the calming Victorian Dingle. The elegant gardens are filled with scented, romantic lavender and roses, and you can enjoy an uninterrupted view extending from the South lawn, edged with contemporary corten steel.
Choosing florals for Dorfold is all about drawing inspiration that reflects its heritage from times gone by with an avant-garde design approach. The Jacqui O ‘Around the World’ collection really complements the Dorfold aesthetic of cherry-picking beautiful ingredients which reflect the estate, from its diverse planted borders with scented spray garden roses, fragrant phlox, pretty hydrangea and lush foliages, to name a few.
There’s something so romantic about the gardens: the soft delicate petals, the airy planting that sways in the gentle breeze and I always try to capture this in my floral compositions, from delicate bouquets to outdoor ceremony arches with rambling roses. It's important to allow space around the floral statement so the viewer is immersed in the atmosphere and can appreciate the design in all its glory.
The ceremony space in the understated coach house, with its stunning white-washed walls, lends itself to a floral vista with its high ceiling. Our clients usually select a statement arch or floral column in their unique style to frame them for that special ‘I do’ moment as all their loved ones watch.
Just when your guests think they have seen it all, they are greeted with L’Écurie, the sophisticated juxtaposing contemporary wedding breakfast space where the light floods in. Here you have lots of charming floral options to express your personal style, although the natural choice is tall centrepieces, to give a wow factor and complement the magnificent architecture of the space. The magic for me is immersing your guests in fragrant flowers just below eye level, with low compotes and bud vases with candles that are sophisticated and stylish when complemented with crisp linen, napkins and accessories.
Seeking out the magical spots in the event space and filling them with scented florals is something special that my Dorfold clients and guests enjoy. It’s a lavish choice but it really makes the venue yours. There are so many little gems to which to add your decor, from the L’Écurie foyer, the spiral staircase in the coach house and the roll top bath. At Dorfold the world is your oyster.
The historic yet cosy atmosphere at Churche’s Mansion is perfect for couples who are looking for a more intimate space in which to take their wedding vows. Built from sturdy Cheshire oak in the 16th century, the Grade I listed timber-framed hall is one of the oldest buildings in Cheshire and one of the few to have survived the Great Fire of Nantwich in 1583, so it retains many of its original features, including its oak panelling.
After being fully restored by its current owners, Sophia and Kyriakos, Churche’s Mansion opened its doors to the public in 2021 as a fine dining restaurant. The family takes pride in sourcing the best British seasonal ingredients to create innovative, gourmet dishes, so your guests will be wowed by the exquisite food and wine.
Intimate, welcoming venues such as Churche’s Mansion are the perfect wedding spaces to make your own, according to your vision - and you may be surprised by what can be achieved in a restaurant setting.
You can easily add floral arrangements to the open hearths, and build up style with candles, candlesticks and crisp linen. Our clients usually choose our ‘bee friendly’ collection here as the flowers, like the food, are sourced locally so it’s perfect for those wishing to keep their wedding carbon footprint low whilst considering the environment. What's lovely is these artisan flowers really offer a seasonal touch, as the focus is not on individual varieties of flowers but the feeling and mood created for your special day, from sweetpeas in the summer to dahlias and lush foliages in the autumn. There is plenty of variety as they are lovingly picked by hand from the field, and are harvested fresh just one or two days before your big day. You can also hire our vessels so they can be used for other eco-conscious clients after your wedding.
This is also the ideal place for cluster wedding centrepieces, such as mini bud vase arrangements that come together to make one stunning display in the centre of your guests’ tables and layered with dinner candles and votives for an opulent touch to reflect the splendour of the setting.
Churche’s Mansion not only champions local ingredients when it comes to eating, but also for drinking, sourcing their gins and whiskies from the Forest Distillery in Macclesfield and craft beers from the local Tatton Brewery. The last few years have seen a huge trend in cocktails at weddings, so wow your guests with one of Churche’s amazing cocktails, or create a signature wedding cocktail to represent your personalities, just as your bespoke florals do.
The restaurant’s different rooms can be used as a family area, where you can create an Instagram-able fresh or silk flower photobooth for guests to capture a memory of the day. This is popular with people of all ages, so perfect if you have some elderly guests or children at your big event.
Of course, you might want to save the indoor space for the Wedding Breakfast and have your ceremony in the small but delightful garden at Churche’s, which you can personalise to your heart’s content. How about having a lush floral arch as a backdrop, or decorating trees with fairy lights and hanging flowers in vintage bottles?
Of course, the perfect wedding venue doesn’t have to be in the middle of the countryside. How about a historic building, right in the heart of a historic city? Old Palace Chester is one such venue. Dating back to the 18th century, it was originally built for the Bishop of Chester and overlooks the peaceful River Dee, with views over the City Walls and Roman Gardens.
Choosing to have your wedding in a city the size of Chester offers certain things that a country wedding doesn’t. With its roman history and picturesque river running through it, you’re spoilt for choice in backdrops for your wedding photos. Transport between church and reception, or reception and guests’ accommodation, is likely to be easy (at most a short taxi ride, at best a walk, so no need for ‘designated’ drivers!). There’s also plenty for your guests to see and do in the days before and after the wedding, so they can enjoy a city break and explore the sites. Getting married in a city means you can incorporate some of the things that are specific to that place into your wedding theme, decorations or favours – Chester’s roman history is the most obvious but it’s also home to one of the UK’s largest zoos and the world’s oldest racecourse.
Old Palace Chester has been converted into an exclusive, luxury wedding venue with a choice of beautiful rooms where you can exchange your vows, or just have the reception if you’re planning to have the ceremony in a nearby church.
Formerly the palace chapel, the River Room is now a dedicated ceremony room, seating up to 110 guests. Its neutral ambience and abundant natural lighting lend itself to flower-filled urns with soft pastel roses and tumbling ivy, which symbolise an unbreakable bond, to compliment the dreamy and airy transparency, and blossoms that are prized for their delicate nature. And if you want to add a Roman touch to the day, carry fragrant herbs and wear a flower headdress to ward off bad luck during weddings. Fill the room with roses and your favourite blooms which can potentially be transferred to the reception room for you and your guest to enjoy a little longer.
The grand ballroom, which seats up to 150, has a neutral colour scheme which you can personalise to your heart’s content, be it for the ceremony or your wedding breakfast. Its versatility makes it ideal for elevated floral arrangements, or you could have subtle modern or classic table centrepieces for an understated effect. One of our favourite weddings there was Lucy and Paul’s, who chose contemporary table centrepieces in a stylish combination of reflexed sweet avalanche, white avalanche and quicksand roses in a gold-footed bowl. There wasn’t a piece of greenery insight; it was all about Lucy's favourite flower, the rose, in soft complementary colours.
There are also the gardens where, in the warmer months, you can say your ‘I do’s’ in the privacy and tranquillity of the Garden Terrace, or serve cocktails and canapes to your guests. This is also the perfect place for a floral arch or photobooth, so your guests can have memories of your special day to treasure forever.
Combermere Abbey is another venue that reminds me of my childhood. Our family farm was located on the Shropshire-Cheshire border near the estate land. What began life as a Cistercian monastery in 1133 has gone through transformations over the centuries to become an elegant, luxuriously peaceful wedding venue.
You’re spoiled for choice for ceremony locations here. One of the most popular places to exchange your vows is in the attractively restored Edwardian Glasshouse, which sits in the middle of Combermere’s charming fruit tree maze – the only one in the world. The Glasshouse seats up to 120 guests and its focal point is a wonderful tree decorated with blossom and birdcages that reflects the beauty of the surrounding gardens and woodlands.
For a truly fairytale-like wedding, you can get married amongst the apple and pear trees of the maze itself and bring a blaze of colour in with a glorious floral ceremony installation - you could always incorporate fruit into the feature to complement the surroundings . Over drinks, your guests can admire the stunning walled gardens while you have your photographs taken. Or, for a more intimate ceremony, you can also tie the knot in the walled gardens.
After the ceremony, your wedding party can head towards the Garden Pavilion for your reception and wedding breakfast. It was purpose-built for weddings, so has a marquee feel and the neutral décor means you can make it truly yours. Choose between banquet tables or round tables and, for maximum impact, add florals with a splash of colour to bring the outside in – take inspiration from the beautiful gardens with peonies, verbena and scented garden roses or use the lush foliage that reflect the woodland and trees.
You and your guests can enjoy luxurious accommodation at the venue, too – both in the courtyard cottages, converted from the 19th century Combermere stables, and in the sumptuous B&B accommodation in the North Wing of the Abbey itself. There’s also the Keeper’s Cottage, which has been specially restored into a restful place where the bride can get ready on her big day.
If you’re after a relaxed, country wedding and a very warm welcome, the Old Doghouse at the Three Greyhounds Inn is an intimate and rustic venue in a restored barn where the original three greyhounds were housed in the days when the pub was a working farm.
The atmospheric space has kept several of its original barn features, including beams with dried hops, candle sconces and old dressers. The Old Doghouse can accommodate up to 60 guests for your ceremony and reception, and up to 75 for the evening party, and the team are attentive to your every need.
After the ceremony your guests can enjoy drinks in the garden, which is for the exclusive use of the wedding party. The large lawn and view out onto lush green fields provide a fantastic backdrop for your wedding photographs.
In the warmer months, you can take the party outside with an evening barbecue, outside bar and fire pits, and there’s enough room for a marquee or tipi.
Inside, the barn lends itself to a feature for the ceremony. Here we created two beautiful floral arrangements with hydrangeas and roses nestled in lush greenery, reflecting the surrounding countryside. These designs were copper stands which reflect the colour palette of the barn and were freestanding so they could be reused to welcome guests afterwards to the reception. An alternative idea would be to have florals sitting on the dresser or use oversized galvanised buckets to give it a rustic country or romantic industrious look. Meanwhile, the rectangular tables look stunning with slim garlands and cluster bud vases – or just a simple vase arrangement. A more intimate wedding also allows you to add some special touches, such as floral napkin favours for every guest to take home and enjoy. In the past, we have also made mini lavender wreaths which can be hung in wardrobes.
These are just a few of our favourite local places to get married, but whatever type of wedding you have in mind, in Cheshire we are extremely lucky to have an abundance of beautiful, and often unusual, wedding venues that you can personalise and make your own for your big day.
Watch this space for some of our favourite wedding venues in Shropshire!